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Lysaght, Andrew Augustus (1873–1933)

by Frank Farrell

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Andrew Augustus Lysaght (1873-1933), by unknown photographer

Andrew Augustus Lysaght (1873-1933), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 2 - 05908

Andrew Augustus Lysaght (1873-1933), politician and barrister, was born on 8 August 1873 at Fairy Meadow, Wollongong, New South Wales, sixth child of Andrew Lysaght (1832-1906). His father, who had also been born at Fairy Meadow, became a well-known local sporting identity, and managed and later acquired the Queen's Hotel at Wollongong. Closely identified with every movement to further the development of the region, he represented Illawarra in the Legislative Assembly in 1885-87 and 1891. His refusal to take seriously the Free Trade-Protectionist divisions and factions led to his eclipse as a parliamentarian. On 6 September 1860 Lysaght had married Irish-born Johanna Carroll at Appin. He died at Fairy Meadow on 3 September 1906, survived by his wife and children; two daughters became nuns, rising to superior positions in their convents.

Andrew junior received his early schooling at Wollongong and on 30 January 1891 was articled to N. W. Montagu, a Sydney solicitor. He was admitted as a solicitor on 30 May 1896. Practising in Sydney, he began specializing in workers' compensation cases and industrial law, soon becoming well known. In 1902-03 he represented the miners before the royal commission on the Mount Kembla colliery disaster. He developed a close and mutually affectionate relationship with members of the mining lodges of the South Coast and represented miners at two other royal commissions. He briefed counsel to defend Andrew Gray in the famous Bowling conspiracy trial before Mr Justice Pring in 1910. By the time he was admitted to the Bar in May 1923, he was widely recognized as an expert on mining and industrial legislation.

In 1905 Lysaght had made an extended tour of Great Britain, Ireland and Europe, and for several months he studied art in Paris and Rome. On 22 January 1907 at Nowra he married Margaret Ellen O'Dwyer, a milliner; they established a family home at Wollongong, moving later to Campbelltown.

Inheriting his father's commanding physique and presence, Lysaght was over 6 ft 5 ins tall (196 cm). Well-read and a fluent platform speaker, he soon attracted a following from those sections of the community which had supported his father, and from the growing labour movement. In 1900-02 he served as an alderman on North Illawarra Municipal Council and was mayor in 1902. After twice standing unsuccessfully for Labor pre-selection, he was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1925 for Wollondilly, and in May 1927 he became attorney-general and minister of justice when J. T. Lang reconstructed his ministry. He won Illawarra in September.

In November 1930 Lysaght won Bulli and was reappointed attorney-general by Lang, although he had been unsuccessful in the caucus ballot for ministers. A stormy relationship soon developed in cabinet between Lysaght and those with more extreme views. He was criticized for proposing a law reform bill which might provide a powerful tool of repression in the hands of any future anti-Labor government: the left thus added its weight to the public condemnation of the bill by the legal profession as 'impracticable' and he failed to carry his proposals in caucus. When key government legislative initiatives—such as the newspaper tax and the attempt to abolish the Upper House—were declared to be unconstitutional, it was suggested that Lysaght should have provided suitable legislation. He apparently lost Lang's personal favour when he gave only passive attention to the premier's unsuccessful attempts to institute proceedings against the leader of the Opposition (Sir) Thomas Bavin and (Sir) Bertram Stevens, who were blamed for causing the collapse of the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales by their propaganda.

Suffering from a disease of the nervous system, Lysaght became increasingly erratic and irascible. According to Lang, he developed the habit of offering his resignation frequently in 'temperamental outbursts' and when he resigned on 16 June 1931 over a trivial incident in parliament, the premier accepted—'to his utter consternation'. Lysaght held Bulli in 1932, but experienced increasing difficulty in carrying out his parliamentary duties. He died at Campbelltown on 3 May 1933 and was buried in the Roman Catholic cemetery behind St Bede's church at Appin, a township in his electorate for which he had particular affection. His wife, son and two daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • [Ex MLA], Our Present Parliament (Syd, 1886?)
  • J. T. Lang, The Turbulent Years (Syd, 1970)
  • Australian Worker, 6 Sept 1906, 27 May 1925, 10 May 1933
  • Freeman's Journal (Sydney), 8 Sept 1906
  • Catholic Press, 13 Sept 1906
  • Punch (Melbourne), 20 Aug 1925
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 11, 16, 17 June 1931, 4 May 1933
  • Illawarra Mercury, 12, 19, 26 June, 10 July 1931, 5 May 1933.

Citation details

Frank Farrell, 'Lysaght, Andrew Augustus (1873–1933)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://labouraustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/lysaght-andrew-augustus-7280/text12623, accessed 24 November 2017.

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